What is Group Meditation? Part One of Five: Beginner Group Meditation
This article serves as the first installment of a five part series called “What is Group Meditation?” These articles will focus on basic types of meditation that are commonly practiced in a group format, benefits of each type, and some questions that will help you decide which is right for your individual practice and level of skill. Meditation students are often referred to as practitioners. The relationship between teacher and student develops with mentoring by an advanced meditation practitioner. Meditation is not something that takes years to learn. You can learn to meditate in five minutes. However, the benefit of being lead by someone who has established his or her practice will be able to guide people who are new to the practice is significant. Students will gain a deeper sense of where they are working in their own practice through interaction with a meditation teacher. The teacher is offered the opportunity to practice through the act of "teaching" – therefore the teacher is the student and the student is the teacher.
First, let me say that group meditation is not for everyone. Group meditation is not a necessary step in being successful at meditation. If you have not established your own practice style, advanced group meditation may be too distracting or overwhelming. External noise and distraction is a common complaint amongst “group” practitioners. Everything is amplified in group meditation; the sensory, psychological and reflective aspects are all multiplied by the group’s collective energies. If you are a beginner at meditation, look for a “beginning meditation” group with an experienced leader or seek out private instruction in your own space with an experienced meditation practitioner’s guidance.
Beginning meditation is the essence of meditation. The beginning is your root as a meditation practitioner. The beginning is the firm grounding that you return to should you stray into your mental clutter and become lost. The beginning is an opening, a not knowing, and a vast expanse of possibility. The qualities of your thoughts are inquisitive, nonjudgmental, and observational. You are observing your thoughts, nothing more. The beginning is an awesome place to be and to return to at any time.
To find your beginning is the goal of meditation. Being new to life as it is, is meditation’s reward. Meditation is agreeing to enter your life, right here and right now. In a “beginning meditation” group, the leader may focus the group on an object, sound, or the breath. The instruction is to sit and experience sensory/physical sensations and thoughts that arise naturally. The practice is to let thoughts go, returning to the beginning over and over using the group’s focal point of an object, sound or the breath. Sounds simple?
I think you will find that not more than a few seconds goes by before your thoughts try to take you away from the experience of being in the present moment. The instructor may return focus by periodically ringing a bell or calling your attention to an object or your own breathing. The experience is heightened in a group because you will have more sensation; hearing others shift or breathe, noise of every kind will invade you! In addition, you may be caught up in “doing it right” or competing with other practitioners in your group. There are many wonderful experiences to work with in a group!
Remember there is no right, there is no wrong, there is only meditation.
In the next part of this series, I will discuss guided meditation, the use of mental imagery, invoked by spoken word, and scripting in meditation practice.